Candidate’s Religion Counts

Candidate’s Religion Counts October 16, 2012

Religion is the most important thing about any candidate for office. Not only should a voter consider it, a wise voter must examine it first.

Of course, the stated religion of a candidate is less important than what actually forms the controlling view of reality that governs his decision-making. Joe Biden is right that his Catholicism undergirds every action, but it is not the Catholicism of the Pope or the bishops. Instead, is a cafeteria-Catholicism of the sixties activists where Mr. Biden selects the social teachings he likes and abandons those he dislikes.

Call Joe Biden a Vatican II Catholic hippie grown old.

President Obama, on the other hand, is one of the last mainstream Protestants: the old liberal Protestant establishment expires with him. Ironically, the last WASP is not White, Anglo-Saxon, but he is Protestant in attenuated “Jesus is a social reformer and prophet” way.

Paul Ryan is a more traditional Catholic in worship and doctrine, but one that deviated from important parts of social teaching on the poor and torture. His inconsistency there can be attributed to the influence of Rand and her disciples as a young man. At this point, he has evolved into a Novak Catholic . . . one that dissents from the Bishops on matters where dissent is allowed, but who accepts their teachings when required.

His tolerance of torture in the war is a blot on this otherwise decent record.

Mitt Romney has changed his mind on many things, but not on his Mormon faith. It is the best way to understand him. He embraces Mormonism’s love of the United States and her Constitution, a duty to tithe and serve the poor, and the moral code of the Church.

The only deviation on his part was flirting with a pro-choice position on abortion early in his political career. He viewed it as harmless in a state like Massachusetts only to discover the culture of death would not be satisfied with safe, legal, and rare. When pushed on issues like cloning and stem-cell research, he returned (as one would expect) to his Mormon roots.

Mitt Romney may be the most conservative man in his private behavior to run for President since the lay-evangelist Garfield in the nineteenth century.

Looking at their religious beliefs is a key insight into each man’s character and his run for office. It is only bigotry if a voter refuses to examine the content of a religion or the way a candidate plays out his religious commitments.

There might be a religious belief that disqualifies a man for President. For example, if a man still defended slavery using religious arguments, then he would not deserve any American votes. If a religion rejected republican values in civil government, then it would be difficult to vote for a man holding that religion.

The primary process is such that no man is likely to gain the nomination of a major party who is a member of a cult in the pejorative sense of that term. Any sensible voter would recognize that liberal and traditional Catholicism, liberal Protestantism, and Mormonism fall well within the American mainstream.

Each faith has dominated regions of the country without threatening our Constitution. They do not, therefore, disqualify a man per se as worship of Satan might!

While religion gives us a clue to character, not all religious ideas are equally relevant. I disagree with liberal Protestantism, Catholicism, and Mormonism on important doctrinal issues. Not all doctrinal issues have political implications. Where liberal Protestantism and Catholicism have political implications, they are outside the American and Christian mainstream. Where Mormon and traditional Catholic doctrine have political implications, they are congenial to those ideas held by most Americans.

A good voter will take religion into account. A bigot will consider religious views with littler or no political bearing and refuse to vote for a man who has ideas he thinks are “weird.” Such a bigot misses the fact that his “weird” is another man’s normal.

Given the Mormon views of marriage and of human life, a voter who rejects traditional marriage and the value of unborn life would more closely examine a Mormon candidate. Like Harry Reid, he might be a very inconsistent Mormon and so merit a liberal vote, but Mitt Romney is no Harry Reid.

In the same way, the liberal Protestantism of the President is vanishing in the pews and the voting booth, because it represents values, religious and civic, most Americans reject. Since President Obama is consistently pro-choice and now is consistently opposed to traditional marriage most Americans have reason to worry what else he will suggest in a second term based on his worldview.

If a man or woman is a Christian, then he will find Mr. Ryan’s religious views least surprising. He will find those aspects of Mormonism with political implications congenial to his own ideas. The traditional Christian will overwhelmingly vote for Romney and Ryan.

We cannot be sure what surprises history will throw the next President. We can be sure that Mr. Romney and Mr. Ryan are the best choice, because their worldview is most in harmony with liberty without libertine morality and freedom of religion without vacuity.

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